With the OHL season now underway, I’ll take a look at some of the most interesting storylines as we kick off the season.
The London Knights have a large predicament on their hands here. Each team has two international spots to fill on their team, but the Knights have three players who fit into this criteria. The most notable of these would be Blackhawks eighth overall selection in the 2018 draft Adam Boqvist. The Swede was just sent down by the Blackhawks which means the Knights can no longer use their two spots on two 2019 eligible players, Russian center Matvei Guskov, and Belarusian defenseman Vladislav Kolyachonok. Now that Boqvist has been sent down to London, there’s no doubt he will be staying and taking up one of the import spots, but one of the other two players will have to be traded or released, and most teams will be looking to get their hands on one of them. Guskov is most likely to stay, having had a great start already, but Kolyachonok has been playing very good lately as well.
With the new incoming season comes a new wave of fresh 2020 draft eligible rookies to the OHL. The most prolific of those would have to be Sudbury Wolves rookie and first overall pick Quinton Byfield. He has had a good start so far with a goal and an assist in two games. It will be interesting to see how the top prospect develops over the course of the year. Sault Ste Marie pick Alex Johnston is another 2020 eligible forward who currently leads the rookies in points after a strong start with three points in two games. Johnston was taken with the 118th pick in the 2017 draft, a pretty great value selection. A pair of former Whitby Fury teammates are making their impact in the OHL early, center Cole Perfetti of the Saginaw Spirit and defenseman Ryan O’Rourke of Sault Ste Marie. Perfetti scored two goals in his first two games and O’Rourke scored a goal, adding an assist. Jacob Perreault is a right winger for Sarnia who scored two goals in his first game last week, showing a good scoring touch. Mississauga left winger Filip Reisnecker has also scored two goals in his two games with the Steelheads and has been a notable threat on the ice. A few other notable players to watch are Jean-Luc Foudy (brother of Liam), Evan Vierling (2nd overall pick), Will Cuylle (3rd overall pick), and Antonio Stranges (viral shootout goal scorer).
The offseason and training camp saw many current OHL players sign their Entry Level Contracts. Over the next month, it will be interesting to see how these players play in the NHL and if some will return to the OHL. Semyon Der-Arguchintsev dazzled in training camp, tournaments, and preseason with the leafs, earning himself an ELC with the club after just turning 18 a few days before. Der-Arguchintsev has now been sent back to the Peterborough Petes, but surely a confidence boost will help for the youngster after staying up for so long. Rasmus Sandin, the Sault Ste Marie two-way defenseman has also signed his ELC with the Leafs this offseason, and he will start the season with the Toronto Marlies in the AHL before deciding whether he goes back to the OHL or alternate options including the SHL. Flint Firebirds ace, Ty Dellandrea, also signed his ELC with the Dallas stars on the offseason. He has now been reassigned to the Firebirds for the OHL season, although Flint has not been off to the best of starts so far.
Another Stars prospect, Ben Gleason, was also signed to an ELC after an impressive year with the Bulldogs, racking up tons of assists. Liam Foudy was selected in the first round, 18th overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets and after signing his Entry-Level deal proceeded to shine in preseason, scoring two goals and flying around the ice with his trademark speed. The future is bright for the Canadian who was just sent down to London recently. The Sharks signed dazzling defender Ryan Merkley after selecting him 21st overall earlier in June, and he’s still up with the big club now putting up some nice points in preseason. Barrett Hayton has also signed his ELC over the offseason with the Arizona Coyotes after an unexpected jump to fifth overall at the draft. He’s still up with the Coyotes team and has a small chance to make the team based on their depth, but the odds are, he’ll be sent down soon. Finally, Evan Bouchard, selected tenth overall by the Oilers, is still up with his teams and may get some NHL games, but will most likely be sent back down at some point.
The first “OHL on the Run Player of the Week” award goes to Akil Thomas of the Niagara Ice Dogs after a five point performance in his team’s lone game of Opening Week in an 8-6 victory. Thomas notched a goal and set up four throughout the game against the Mississauga Steelheads on Sunday. Among the runners-up for the award were Colorado Avalanche prospect Brandon Saigeon who totaled seven points in his two games this week with Hamilton Bulldogs. Peterborough forward and overager Chris Paquette fired in four goals and added an assist this week in his two games with the Petes, an impressive start for the Tampa Bay Lightning center. In net this week, Hunter Jones was the clear standout, backstopping the Petes to both of their wins and posting a very solid .962 save percentage and 1.50 goals-against-average.
Marcus Griep @marcus_griep